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Field Hockey preview

For Acton-Boxboro, puzzle is coming together

To the state’s Division 1 field hockey teams, sorry, but there’s no talk of rebuilding at Acton-Boxboro. The defending state champion went 22-1-1 last fall, and beat Shrewsbury in the state final for its third title in six years. With most of her starters back, coach Mae Shoemaker has liked what she’s seen so far.

“You like to hope you’re going to be good. But there are so many pieces to the puzzle,” said Shoemaker, who took her team to New Jersey to play that state’s field hockey elite over Labor Day weekend.

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The Colonials’ strength starts with the Cardarelli sisters, Leah (junior) and Eleana (senior), both of whom earned All-Scholastic honors, Eleana as the Division 1 Player of the Year. From there, add junior Maggie Bettez, a member of the US Field Hockey Under-16 national team along with both returning goalies, Kathryn Salemme and Sarah Bentley.

If anyone is going to push A-B in the North it would be Weston, which lost to the Colonials in the North final and returns junior All-Scholastic Elizabeth Dennehy. Andover, which had won back-to-back state titles before A-B ended its run, must compensate for the loss of three-time All-Scholastic Jaclyn Torres.

In the South, Dennis-Yarmouth (16-3-1 last year) is strong, and not just because Max Allen is back in goal. In a season that starts with an Office of Civil Rights complaint still hovering over the state, the junior netminder will be a central figure, and not just because of his gender.

“He’s a great kid, and he works hard every day,” said D-Y coach Mary O’Connor, a former Walpole High goalie. “I know a lot of people don’t like it, but it is what it is.”

Allen and the Dolphins lost to Walpole, 1-0, in last year’s South semifinals. The Porkers will have to overcome the graduation of seven starters if they are to duplicate last year’s 22-1 record that included the Division 1 South title. Captains and four-year varsity members Caroline Feeley, Brooke Matherson (an All-Scholastic), and Ashley Waldron give coach Marianne Murphy hope and a good starting point.

And if D-Y or Walpole falter, Atlantic Coast League champion Sandwich could step in. The Blue Devils return their leading scorer, Nicole Martin. Martin scored three goals in Sandwich’s opening 7-3 win over Barnstable Thursday.

Alyssa Carlson and Lauren Sutherland are gone (92-0-3 in four years), but no one is feeling sorry for four-time defending Division 2 state champion Watertown. Led by this All-Scholastic pair, the Raiders have dominated the Division 2 scene, beating Apponequet in the Eastern Mass. final before blanking Oakmont in the state final.

Allie Doggett and Emily Loprete, both juniors, are this year’s captains, a sign of their leadership skills as well as a senior class without a single returning varsity player. Winning No. 5 isn’t on coach Eileen Donahue’s radar screen just yet.

“That is the furthest thing from my mind,” said Donahue. “Every year is a concern, this year more than ever.”

Apponequet improved from seven wins in 2010 to 15 in 2011 to 21 last fall, going 21-1-1 and winning the Division 2 South title. But improving on that will be a challenge with the loss of All-Scholastic goalie Jenna O’Leary.

Coach Cindy Cuthbertson enters her 27th year with her leading scorer back, senior Cara Storms (25 goals in 2012). Liz Loranger also returns after missing last fall with a torn ACL. Loranger led the Lakers in scoring two years ago. Larissa Alves takes over from O’Leary in goal.

Bob Holmes can be reached at rholmes@globe.com
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